The distilling industry would not be what it is today without the work of one Louisville-based company with a 100+ year history, Vendome Copper & Brass Works.
The local metal fabrication company — located in Butchertown at 729 Franklin St. — crafts distilling systems that produce bourbon, rum, gin, vodka, and for Copper & Kings, American brandy. These stills are gurgling across the Bluegrass and beyond + star as the main characters in their respective distilleries.
On April 1, 1912, Vendome was born in Jefferson County. Originally, it operated Downtown at 721-723 East Main St. where Pregame Coffee + Crossfit The Ville currently reside.
Some of its important early customers included E.H. Taylor Jr. & Sons + J.T.S. Brown & Sons — a brand now produced by Heaven Hill Distillery.
Though Prohibition decimated Vendome’s book of business as its distillery clients were forced to cease operations, in 1933 the company helped around a dozen Kentucky distilleries revamp old parts in anticipation of the amendment’s repeal. It’s no surprise that business boomed shortly after.
In the 1980s, Vendome built the largest ever multi-column distilling system + the largest skid-mounted ethanol plant. In 1995, sculptor Martin Puryear, alongside Vendome’s craftsmen, created a 23-foot copper sculpture entitled “Everything that Rises,” that was installed at the University of Washington.
So why copper? When distilling spirits in copper, the element reacts with the sulfurs put out by the fermenting yeast, canceling out the sulfur taste that would otherwise embitter the usually smooth product.
A few local places to see this copper in action:
- Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery, 801 W. Main St.
- Copper & Kings American Brandy Co., 1121 E. Washington St.
- Rabbit Hole Distillery, 711 E. Jefferson St.
DYK: The family of W. Elmore Sherman Sr., the founder of Vendome, has been running the company for four generations.